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Timeline / Reshaping America / 1820s: Commercial agriculture and whaling transform Hawai‘i

1820s: Commercial agriculture and whaling transform Hawai‘i

As foreign agricultural businesses gain control of more of the Hawaiian Islands, converting land for coffee and sugar cultivation, Native Hawaiians are displaced. European and American whalers use Hawai‘i as their base and play a major role in changing the Hawaiian economy from trade-based to cash-based.

This decade marks the beginning of a shift from a lifestyle based on subsistence to one incorporating foreign agriculture, including coffee and sugar cultivation. Grazers, including cattle, goats, and sheep, reshape the islands’ environment, and introduced plants overtake indigenous plants that supply food and medicine to Native Hawaiians.

Land and Water

“A view of whale fishery,” from A Collection of Voyages round the World...Captain Cook’s First, Second, Third and Last Voyages, 1790

Courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce, photograph by Sean Linehan